Tomorrow is Easter. As a preacher turned seminary professor, I am agitated today. Preachers everywhere tomorrow get to proclaim once again the amazing story of the Easter event. That event not only was unprecidented historically, but continues to impact history, lives, neighborhoods and cultures. The Easter story, proclaiming that Jesus is risen, offers hope. It offers transformation. It is a big story. This is a story that is bigger than any person or institution. Because it is big story, it is able to fulfill radical, amazing and unheard of promises like new life, not only eternally, but right here and now. (NT Wright has an amazing book on these themes: Surprised by Hope–Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. If you haven’t read it, buy it and read it!).
So, since I don’t get to preach tomorrow. You just got my Easter rant.
This past week I read a fantastic book by John Stackhouse: Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World. In this book, Stackhouse writes about four commandments–creation commandments and redemption commandments. Here is a summary: There are two creation commandments. First, the cultural mandate. Humans, created in the image of God– care for creation. Second, the great commandments. As human beings, we are called to love God and love our neighbor (broadly defined as anyone in need). Love for God and othes is the echo that sounds through all of creation.
There are two redemption commandments. First, the new commandment. This is the command by Jesus for his followers to love each other. This more particular command breaks down the racial, economic, class and gender barriers among his followers. This new way of being, not always well lived out, becomes a sign of a new way to a broader community, and alows Jesus followers to be agents of a new way of living in the church and beyond. Second, the great commission. This command calls the church to proclaim the good news, the Easter story. This is the story that God is love, that he wants to make all things right again, that he wants to restore and promote shalom. This proclamation is not to be triumphalistic or militaristic, but rather humble, and gracious, as a gift-offering.
These four commandments offer practical ways for us to live our lives in light of the Big Story, the Easter story. These commandments remind us to live out the Big Story, not to get sidetracked or too focused on our more narrowed endeavors.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his Christology entitled Christ the Center by writing that any study of Christ must begin in silence. As we get ready for Easter Sunday and declaring together the Big Story: Christ is Risen, in the midst of the shout, we must be silent and in awe and wonder and gratitude.
The Big Story reminds us of great hope, and thrusts us towards new practices. But our new life is always lived out of a sense of wonder. It takes our breath away.